"Chiang Rai & The far north of Thailand" Top 5 Page for this destination Chiang Rai by Willettsworld

Chiang Rai Travel Guide: 232 reviews and 682 photos

Chiang Rai is one of the best spots to do trekking in Thailand, what with its alluring mountains and numerous hill-tribes. Chiang Rai retains some of the small-town charm now relatively lacking in places like Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

The city was established in 1262 during the reign of expansionist Lanna ruler Mangrai. Inheriting the throne from his father in 1259, he embarked on a campaign to quickly conquer - either by war or diplomacy - the surrounding fiefs. Once he had established Chiang Rai, he moved his capital here and further expanded, with Chiang Khong, Fang and Phayao all falling under his sphere of influence. In the next twenty years his kingdom stretched to encompass the state of Haripunchai in Lamphun and in 1292, Mangrai established his final capital, Chiang Mai, which remains Thailand's northern capital to this day. However, don't expect to be tripping over dozens of temples or ruins. There's only a few temples worth exploring plus a fairly good hill tribe museum but then that's really your lot. However, there is a very good night market, which was the best I visited in Thailand, that also features an open-air food court.

I came to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai over some nice hills on a bus and visited the city plus went on a Golden Triangle tour - the English name meaning the meeting of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, where the Mekong meets the Ruak River. Historically the Golden Triangle has been an area well-known for the growing of opium, and the name comes from a US State Department memo on the practice. I then took another bus to Chiang Khong which lies on the Laos border in order to get a boat across the Mekong River to a small town called Huay Xai in Laos.

  • Last visit to Chiang Rai: Dec 2008
  • Intro Updated Nov 29, 2009
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  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Nov 28, 2009 at 6:09 PM

    Nice tips on Chiang Rai. I wanted to go to Doi Tung, but there were no tours from chiang mai, need to stay at chiang rai! Your Golden Triangle tour was expensive, I think I paid a fraction less from Chiang Mai.

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